The Start of the Game
You are all ready for the big game. There have been hours dedicated to preparation. You have practiced and watched a game film. Blood, sweat, and tears have flowed out of your body. You feel excited and ready for the game to begin. There are people around you who are ready to cheer you on. Except this is not for a football game—this is for adoption. I want to tell you how adoption is like football. Football can be fun, exciting, stressful, overwhelming, and exhilarating. Those are also many of the emotions that will come as you embark on the journey of adoption.
Football and Adoption
I grew up watching football, even though I grew up in a house of girls, and now I watch football with my three sons who happened to be adopted. They frequently play in the backyard or the living room during the winter. I hear them shout out, “Blue 42! Blue 42! Hut hut, hike!” as the ball is snapped, one player runs a route to the couch, the quarterback throws the ball, and the receiver grabs the ball out of the air and falls on the couch. My sons talk about how they want to be football players. My oldest frequently talks about what position he will want to play in middle school, high school, and beyond. My husband and I talk to him about trying lots of different positions, practicing and working hard, and being willing to do anything the coach wants him to do. The beginning steps of adoption can be similar to practicing and trying different positions. When you are considering adoption, you should do thorough research about adoption. You will decide what kind of adoption that you want: domestic adoption through a private agency, adoption through foster care, international adoption, or embryo adoption. It will be important to find the option that is right for you. In each of these, there will be a stack of paperwork to fill out, background checks to be completed, and a home study that will include interviews. Seek out friends and family that have adopted. Talking to them and hearing different experiences with adoption can help you make a good decision. Just as in football, you will want to be prepared for adoption.
The Kickoff of Football and Adoption
The game is about to begin. The adoption journey is starting. The beginning of a football game begins with one team kicking off. This is like starting the process of adoption. You are going to be excited and pumped up and your heart rate will be elevated. It is a huge step forward. You have decided to go for it. When we first got approved for adoption, we were thrilled. We wanted the game to be quick and easy. I wish someone would have told us to have more patience and to pace ourselves because just as the four quarters of a football game can last a long time, the adoption process can last a long time as well. The approval process was done, but there would be hard work that would tax us emotionally, physically, financially, and spiritually as we fought our way to the final play of the game.
The Positives and Negatives of Getting to the First Down
A first down is when a team gets ten or more yards. The team has four chances to get those yards. As a team gets more first downs, they get closer and closer to the endzone to score a touchdown. In adoption, the first downs are the positive things that happen. It could be that an expectant parent contacted you about parenting his or her child, your adoption worker approached you about presenting your profile to an expectant parent, or a caseworker from the state called you about a child needing a permanent home who has the potential for adoption.
Sometimes when a team is trying to move the ball, the defense sacks the quarterback or tackles the running back for a loss of yards. These are some of the negative things that happen in adoption, such as the expectant parent not responding to your email or messages. This is all part of the process. I am not alone in saying that the first—or second or third—contact that we had from an expectant parent did not result in an adoption plan. There will be negative things that happen, but this should not stop you from moving forward. It is all part of the game. You have to be resilient and positive. There will be times when a team cannot get ten yards and will need to punt the ball.
There will be times when you realize that not every opportunity is for you. You may recognize that a situation is not going to work out. We had been in contact with an expectant mother for several weeks. We wanted it to work out and for her to choose us to be parents for her child. The first down did not come. The adoption plan was not what was right for either of us. Figuratively we punted the ball and chose to go in a different direction. It ended up being the best thing for us even though it was difficult. We did not know exactly why until months later. Perspective and time helped heal our hearts.
Calling a Timeout in Football and Adoption
Sometimes in football games, a coach will call a timeout. This will help the coach to address the players and talk about different strategies that will help them achieve the end goal of winning the game. In adoption, there are times when you will need to take a timeout. It is a physical break. It is not game-ending, but a way to take a step back and strategize on the path forward. This could be telling a caseworker that you need to take a break and don’t want phone calls for a week or a month. It could mean taking your profile down from a website for a few weeks. You could take a vacation to relax from the stress that comes from constantly hoping and worrying about what will happen and when it will happen. Every Mother’s Day for a few years after fertility treatments and then during the adoption journey, my husband and I would take a trip. We needed to get away and recharge. It was the best way for us to cope while also allowing our families to enjoy their day without feeling like they needed to tiptoe around us.
During a timeout, the coach gives a pep talk. This is something that encourages the players to go out and work harder. It helps them to refocus and get pumped up. A coach can be a caseworker or adoption worker. The caseworker will be there to answer questions and give advice. The caseworker has seen other adoptions happen. She or he has helped other couples or individuals through the adoption process. In adoption, you can give yourself a pep talk or your partner may give you a pep talk. Or maybe there is a family member or friend that has been down this road before who can share advice or even a listening ear. Remember that you are not alone in this. You are not the only one on the team. Your teammates want to help you through the hard times and celebrate with you in the good times. Make sure you have a support system of teammates that you can turn to in times of need. There will also be fans that will be cheering you on even though they have not played the game of adoption before. During the adoption journey, you may see other individuals or couples being chosen and adopting a child. It might make you feel like something is wrong with you and you may ask why you haven’t been chosen. You may feel like you are not good enough, rich enough, cute enough. This is not a competition with others trying to adopt. The right child will come and you will feel this. I remember seeing others adopting and feeling down on myself, but when the right baby came, it felt perfect and there was a reason for the wait. There is a child out there for you.
The Game Plan
Throughout the game, there will be adjustments to the game plan. There will be substitutions and changes to the players on the field. You are in the field of adoption. You are playing, but that does not mean that you have to play exactly like you thought the game would be played. When we started on the adoption journey, we filled out pages and pages of paperwork and attended many hours of classes to become licensed foster parents. Shortly before we would have been licensed we felt like that was not the right decision for our family. We called an audible and changed our entire plan. Even though we had spent so much time and attention, we felt like we needed to get approved through a private agency and try to adopt that way. There were waiting periods, more paperwork and background checks, and then more waiting, but when we were approved we felt like we were running in the right direction.
A touchdown came over a year later when an expectant mother contacted us and chose us to be a part of the adoption plan for her son. We were overjoyed. We celebrated and danced in the endzone. We knew that the game was not over, but we were on the board. A few months later, we flew to her state and the baby was born while we were in the air. She placed him in our arms and we felt like the placement was better than winning the super bowl! It was a beautiful experience and we share a wonderful open adoption relationship with her as well as the birth father and his family.
The Next Game
More than a year after we finalized our first son’s adoption, we knew that we wanted to play the adoption game again. We put on our helmets and pads again and did more paperwork and adoption training to get approved. This time we had a couple of turnovers. Someone contacted us and lied to us about being pregnant and considering adoption. We were catfished, which was a hard blow to us. We were vulnerable and this person preyed on vulnerable people. Although I have heard of similar cases that were about money, for her it was about attention. Lucky for us we quickly figured out that she was lying.
We felt very guarded after that. We wanted our son to have a sibling and we wanted another child in our family. We threw a few Hail Mary passes during this time by telling everyone we knew that we were trying to adopt. After two years with no adoption plan, we called another audible and decided to get licensed through the state to try to adopt through foster care. With foster care, we had two boys placed in our home within a few weeks after being licensed. This was another touchdown, but the road to adopting them was long and arduous. We were lucky that they stayed with us for over three years before we were able to adopt them. That day was another super bowl win in our eyes. After we finalized their adoptions, we continued to pursue other potential foster-to-adopt situations. We kept our license open and did what was required when we moved to a new town. We were hopeful that we would adopt again, but that was not in the game plan for us. The season was over. Our family was complete and we were happy that we were parents to our three boys.
The Last Quarter
Adoption is like football. There are ups and downs. There are celebrations and heartbreaking losses. Remember to find your team and those that will support you and cheer you on. You are working towards the same goal and, in the end, you will claim victory. Don’t let the penalties, loss of yards, or turnovers get you down. There are four quarters in a game and you may not know when the last quarter will be over. I hope that you will have your super bowl win. I will be cheering you on from afar.